I am living on the edge – – literally. My side of the street is Moose Zone 12 – – but if I step across the street I’m in Zone 15.
The way it works is this: every year a certain number of permits are issued to hunt Maine’s 70,000+ moose. Because the demand is high and the number of issued permits low, there is a moose lottery conducted in the summer for the following Fall’s hunting season. Maine residents have a better chance than people from out-of-state: no more than 10% of the permits in each District will be issued to non-residents. The lotto costs $15 for one ticket, but if you actually win, you will pay $52 for the permit if you are a Maine resident, and a whopping $585 if you are from out-of-state. Ten additional permits are granted to the highest bidders at an auction. This year the highest bidder “won” a permit for $11,734.56! The amount of permits issued differs based on the zone. Northern Maine, which has a prolific moose population, issues as many as 800 permits in a single zone and there is more than an 80% success rate in getting a moose; but southern Maine, which has far fewer moose, may issue only 15 permits, and the chance of actually getting a moose is only about 15%. This year a total of 4,110 permits were issued in Maine. On my side of the street, Zone 12, 55 permits were issued and moose could be hunted only October 14 – 19. Across the street, in Zone 15, only 25 permits were issued, and hunting is allowed November 4 – 30. For first-time applicants who are Maine residents, the chance of winning a permit is only 1.9 percent, and for a non-resident, there is only a 0.2 percent chance of winning a permit. There are a lot of applicants!
No one can deny that the annual moose hunt is a huge moneymaker for Maine: the lottery and permits alone generate more than $1.5+ million for Maine. Hunting in general is a huge source of income for Maine: it generated $1.4 billion in Maine in 2012. It’s not only about the licensing fees. Hunters are usually accompanied by friends and relatives. Hunting parties buy food, gas, and lodging. After a successful hunt, they will turn to taxidermists and meat processing plants.
Over 300,000 fishing licenses were sold last year, as were 210,000 hunting licenses. Even if only a fraction of that number of hunters were successful, that’s a lot of dead animals. But old-timers say that coyotes have overtaken Maine, and greatly and adversely affected the balance of wildlife here. “Hunting is not what it used to be,” they insist.
There are people in my town for whom killing a deer means they will have meat this winter, so I do not judge. But I do not hunt, nor do I have a desire to do so, and it’s not only because I am not permitted to hunt for religious reasons (according to Jewish Law, animals may be killed only within the guidelines of kashrut). In fact, I somewhat dread hunting season. I make sure to wear a fluorescent orange vest whenever I leave my house for a walk, and my dog wears a fluorescent orange bandana, lest we be mistaken for dinner. I have run into many a rifle-toting, camouflaged hunter in my backwoods walks, and they have always been polite and not at all scary.
But I mourn the loss of any moose, whose grace despite its ungainly proportions never fail to awe and inspire me.
The only animals I shoot are with my camera.